Does exercise kill disease?

Because your body has fevers in order to heat up germs to death, and exercise artificially causes your body temperature to rise, it follows as an axiom of symbolic logic that exercise will (or can) help to kill germs.¹

I’ve known this for many years, just through common sense. But it’s hard to find a straight discussion of this issue, even on the Google. Here’s a smattering:

“Dr.” Ed Laskowski (I once knew a trombone player named Laskowski) says, from his Mayo bully pulpit, that in general you shouldn’t exercise if your symptoms are “below the neck.” For now just ignore the metaphysical ambiguity of his statement. At least he’s correct that symptoms “above the neck” – which include fevers – allow for exercise. And although he later advocates “common sense,” he fails to appreciate the real reason why exercise might “help you feel better,” i.e., by killing germs and diseases.

According to the self-discredited (“This article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice”), we should be scared of exercise. This piece would be flatly dishonest, if it weren’t so confused.  First it says that “Working out when you have a fever can cause your body temperature to rise even higher.” But this is exactly the point! After all, a fever itself does this. Then the article, determined to find as many scare tactics as it can, does a total non-sequitur: “Exercise may cause a virus to invade the heart muscle or pericardium, the sac around the heart.” That makes sense why? Later there is this gem: “If you’re exhausted after a post-illness workout, you may be exercising too hard.” Tell that to Lance Armstrong.


Next we have a Catholic website that obviously specializes in irony, accusing other people of mythical beliefs. Exercise doesn’t eliminate toxins? Well maybe if we ate exercise, then it would. Anyway this article admits that “Fever raises your … body heat. Exercise also does this.” Well, what on Earth do the Catholics think fevers are for? It is not a bad thing that exercise takes some of the burden off your body by raising the heat level for it. Who needs a fever when you have a couple miles of sidewalk?

This hippie website advocates self-destruction, actually suggesting you try to lower your fever, immediately after admitting fevers help kill germs. Moving on.

Finally, Dr. Mirkin talks some sense into the Internet. He points out correctly that athletes regularly have body temperatures at otherwise dangerous fever levels, like 103.8 and 101 and 107.8. Add to this the fact that athletes are healthier than the rest of us, and you shouldn’t be so surprised.

One symptom of illness is that we become slothful, lying around the house, waiting for mothers to bring is soup. Don’t listen to this destructive instinct in your body. When you are ill, engage in a substantial cardiovascular workout, possibly with some heavy lifting.

¹This blog post is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice

10 thoughts on “Does exercise kill disease?

  1. Your symbolic logic is correct, but there is more to it than just the body heat produced. Fever is accompanied by an immune response. Exercise strengthens the immune system, but excessive exercise can actually weaken it (see page 2).

    And forgive me for asking the obvious question, but should this blog also have a disclaimer about not being a substitute for medical advice?

  2. Mr. Tomato,

    I know that fever is accompanied by an immune response. The exercise helps the fever part out. I never said it helps produce fighting blood cells.

    As for the lack of disclaimer, fixed!


  3. “Because your body has fevers in order to heat up germs to death”

    Ha that is funny, unless your body is going to heat to over 80 degrees centigrade it is not going to kill the germs. I must say this is great parody, please keep it comming.

  4. Mr. Random: I think you are incorrect. The purpose of a fever is not to boil the bugs to death, but to disrupt their functioning and slow down the infection. At least that is my understanding – I would defer to those with a better understanding of the immune response.

  5. Nautanki,

    It is customary to name to whom your comment is addressed.

    Once you do that, please explicate what it is exactly that bothers you so much.

    Cheers to you this holiday season,

  6. Hey! Interesting article here. I noticed that when I took up a solid exercise regiment in my later teens I never got sick, at all. I might have gotten truly ill once in the course of two years or something. My knee problems also seemed to go away. My regiment was fairly intense and every time I came out of the gym (or back inside from outside exercise) my whole body would feel transformed. My regiment got me running up to thirty miles some weeks, all miles being at least 8:30 minutes/mile. I also built muscle with body weight resistance exercises, and some weights.

    Often times we wake up and feel like we are getting sick – that vague itching in the throat which is not quite painful, or something like that. Whenever this sensation happened to be in my person, I would work out and it would totally disappear – as if the germs had indeed been killed by the exercise. It was the cardio that would produce this body altering affect, which I still don’t understand. Exercise!

  7. NotedScholar –

    Technically I was not “following” your advice as this happened years before your article was published in this blog.

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